By David Baum, EVP, Allison+Partners 

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Miami is the first U.S. city to begin earning revenue from a city-branded cryptocurrency, “MiamiCoin,” and is now the host of the largest national conference on cryptocurrencies, Bitcoin 2022.  Allison+Partners EVP David Baum, who leads the firm’s office in Miami, attended the conference this week. He shares insights on the regulatory landscape around cryptocurrency, how leaders navigate crypto’s environmental impact, and Miami’s journey to becoming the next tech hub.

Read David’s key takeaways below:

Late to the Party but Politicians and Regulators are Finally Getting their Wristbands:

Despite the public perception that the crypto industry is the wild west and has utter disdain for any oversight, there was a strong sentiment at the conference that regulation is the path to widespread adoption. President Biden’s recent executive order that directed federal agencies to consider new regulations and report on digital currencies was notable for highlighting the economic benefits of this emerging sector (a rare nod of approval from the U.S. government). This will spur institutional investors to increase investments and help state officials create local regulatory frameworks.

Adapt or Face Oblivion: Necessity Spurs Energy Innovation:

For years, the criticism from regulators, NGO’s and large swaths of society has been geared toward the vast amounts of energy required for mining bitcoins. Bitcoin’s consensus mechanism (proof-of-work) requires miners to utilize vast amounts of energy (often fossil fuels) to verify transactions. Out of necessity to avoid scrutiny from lawmakers, mining companies have increasingly sought sustainable energy sources, spurring a wave of innovation and new deployments of sustainable energy. While still in the early stages, the industry is shifting towards sustainable energy solutions in the coming years.

Crypto Coast: Miami Flexing its Digital Financial Muscles:

As Communicators, we appreciate the successful development and deployment of a bold narrative, and kudos to the Miami business & tech community, Mayor Suarez, and Mayor Levine for elevating Miami as the new digital financial capital for the 21st century. At the start of the event, organizers unveiled a new “digital bull of wall street” statue, a symbol that Miami is taking aim at New York City as the “Wall Street of the South” powered by crypto technology. Symbols matter and often push a prophecy that eventually becomes self-fulfilling, and if the size of the attendees (over 20,000), quality of the speakers, and acceleration of investments, entrepreneurs, and talent flying in are any indications, Miami will become the epicenter for crypto innovation not just for the United States but for the world.

We have a variety of crypto expertise around the network; If you’re interested in learning more about how we’re approaching this frontier, reach out at hello@stagwellglobal.com.

 

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NFTs – short-term hype or a serious, lasting trend? One thing at least is certain: Hardly any other topic is currently shaking up the digital world as much as non-fungible tokens, or NFTs for short. Whether it’s the crypto scene, the games market, the art world or the music world – everyone wants to participate in the latest digital gold rush. The NFT market was worth around $44 billion U.S dollars in 2021 (Chainalysis Inc.), rivaling the global art and antiques market, which generated sales of around $50 billion U.S dollars in the same period. No wonder marketers are interested in the technology. Read on for a short explainer on the phenomenon.

WHAT ARE NFTS (NON FUNGIBLE TOKENS)?

Non-fungible means “not arbitrarily replaceable”, i.e., they are individual pieces that cannot be duplicated. The term typically refers to digital assets such as images, videos, animations, audio pieces or graphics. NFTs take on the function of a digital certificate of authenticity and ownership, making the associated digital file a unique and uniquely identifiable asset – which is also quite forgery-proof: each NFT is given an individual ID and stored on a blockchain as a record that can be viewed online.

Non-fungible tokens are traded in cryptocurrencies such as Ethereum. The value of such a digital certificate can sometimes rise to astronomical heights, depending on whether it is a sought-after collector’s item or not. For example:

  • In the spring of 2021, for example, the first tweet ever sent by Twitter founder Jack Dorsey on March 21, 2006, was auctioned off as an NFT for $2.9 million.
  • The first source code for the World Wide Web by Tim Berners-Lee changed hands as an NFT for $5.4 million.
  • An NFT from the legendary CryptoPunk series, which helped to trigger the hype surrounding tokens, achieved the fabulous price of almost 24 million dollars.
  • The most expensive NFT traded so far is the digital artwork “The Merge” by the artist Pak, which fetched $91.8 million in December 2021.

HOW ARE NFTS BEING USED IN MARKETING?

The uses vary across industry.

  • AUCTIONS
    • Just before Christmas, for example, Vodafone auctioned off the first SMS sent via the British mobile company’s network in 1992. The telco giant donated the proceeds – 132,000 euros – to a good cause. The PR effect was far greater: more than 3,500 articles on the campaign were published worldwide in online alone, generating around two billion contacts. Coca-Cola was probably also concerned with the positive PR effect: In the summer of 2021, the beverage manufacturer auctioned four multisensory NFT collectibles for International Friendship Day, which could be experienced and used in different ways. The bright red “Coca-Cola Bubble Jacket Wearable,” for example, can be “worn” on the Decentraland 3D virtual reality platform by the avatar of the user who unlocked it. The “Sound Visualizer,” on the other hand, is designed to give an acoustic experience of enjoying an ice-cold Coke, from the fizz of an opening Coke bottle to the refreshing taste. The NFT auction raised a total of more than $ 575.000, which Coca-Cola donated to Special Olympics International.
  • TRANSFERING BRANDS INTO THE METAVERSE
    • Adidas Originals recently launched its first NFT collection under the slogan “Into the Metaverse.” The tokens give owners exclusive access to special products and experiences designed by Adidas in cooperation with NFT pioneers Punks Comic, Gmoney and Bored Ape Yacht Club, who are well-known in the scene. The roughly 30,000 NFTs, worth a total of more than $22 million, sold out in a matter of hours – even though the “physical” goods – a hoodie, tracksuit, and orange beanie – won’t be released until later in 2022. The digital counterparts of these are to be worn by NFT owners ins in the blockchain game “The Sandbox,” where Adidas has purchased a plot of land for its NFT community.
  • INVESTING IN NFT ASSETS
    • Nike is also heavily involved in the NFT business. In 2019, Nike patented the “CryptoKicks” system. Here, the sporting goods manufacturer wants to link limited shoes with a digital asset and “breed” new shoes virtually, which are then produced in real life. Finally, at the end of 2021, the company announced the acquisition of the world’s leading NFT producer RTFKT, which specializes in the design of exclusive digital sports shoes and sneakers.

WHAT SHOULD BRANDS WATCH OUT FOR AS THEY EXPERIMENT WITH NFTS?

The business of non-fungible tokens is not without its pitfalls. With the explosion of interest in the technology, the risk of crypto crime is also increasing. Wash trading is also becoming increasingly common in the NFT market — meaning the owner of a digital asset artificially drives up the price of an NFT through continuous buying and selling.

Additionally, there are questions about the ecological impact of NFTs. Blockchain can consume an enormous amount of energy and leave a large CO2 footprint. Both the production of an NFT and its sale on the blockchain require the computing power of thousands of computers. Brands for whom sustainability is key to positioning could face reputational issues with the use of NFTs.

WHAT IS THE OPPORTUNITY FOR BRANDS NOW?

It has always been the task of strong brands to be pioneers in emerging technology to drive new dimensions of the consumer experience. For brands whose identities are predicated on being challengers, or strong bridges believe this will also be the case in the area of Web 3.0, that of NFTs. Especially for a brand like Nike, whose essence is to build strong bridges to the popular culture of the new generation again and again, or even to be a cultural core itself, NFTs offer chances and opportunities to build ties that are truly “non-fungible”.

WHERE DO I GO NEXT?

Explore Stagwell’s content series on NFTs to learn more about:

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By Lisa Rosenberg, Partner + President, Consumer Brands at Allison+Partners

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Marketing Frontiers is a new series from Stagwell exploring the methods, mediums, and messes modern marketers will grapple with over the next decade as they chart transformation in the discipline. This February, Stagwell is exploring NFTs.

Virtual worlds are on the rise – and the time people spend in them is only going to increase. With popular artists such as Justin Bieber, Travis Scott and Ariana Grande having already performed in the metaverse, brands know that the future is virtual and that the possibilities of marketing in the metaverse are seemingly endless. In the last few months, we’ve seen an explosion of brands using NFTs to connect with and engage their consumers.

As AOR for Budweiser, Allison+Partners supported the brand’s entry into the metaverse with the launch of the Budverse Heritage Collection on Cyber Monday 2021. The brand’s first-ever NFTs are a curated set of unique digital cans representing 1936, the year the first Budweiser can was created. This launch marked the brand’s first foray into the world of unique digital assets on the blockchain and represented Anheuser-Busch InBev’s first owned NFT marketplace, Budwesier.com/NFT.  Each Heritage Collection token is a one-of-a-kind digital asset generated using designs from throughout Budweiser’s history and was available to consumers of legal drinking age via two different token types at launch – Core Heritage Cans and Gold Heritage Cans. The Gold Heritage Cans are rarer, with only 36 in existence and included access to and/or exclusives for future Budweiser in-person events and early access to future brand NFT launches. There were 1900 Core Heritage cans released.  

The launch was incredibly successful, with the collection selling out within an hour, a fact the team quickly added to media follow ups, with efforts resulting in 243 million impressions, including coverage in Entrepreneur, Decrypt, and multiple stories in AdAge.

For an iconic brand like Budweiser, there are numerous benefits to being seen as an early adopter in this space. The brand has been a major influencer and contributor in sports and entertainment and NFTs represent the future of where consumers are going to socialize and be entertained. In addition, NFT marketplaces enable Budweiser to provide consumers with a richer and deeper brand experience, leveraging technology for increased engagement.

Late last month, the A+P team supported the brand’s release of its second NFT collection, The Budweiser Royalty Collection, which also quickly sold out. The brand partnered with 22 of the world’s top emerging music artists to drop their first-ever NFTs and provide them with a global platform they might not have access to otherwise. The drop also allowed fans the opportunity to support artists directly and potentially unlock exclusive experiences with them. Through the Budweiser Royalty Collection, Budweiser continues to give local artists a global platform and support their journey towards becoming the next Kings and Queens of the music industry. Coverage resulted in 144 million impressions and included stories in Benzinga, Medium, INSIDER and many more.

Earned coverage of Budweiser’s entry into NFTs successfully positioned the brand as an innovative leader in the space and demonstrated how AB InBev is leveraging technology to engage brand fans in an entirely new way. Both the Budverse Heritage Collection and the Budweiser Royalty Collection offered consumers the ability to collect and own a digital piece of the Budweiser brand, as well as gain exclusive access to brand experiences.

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By Will Johnson, CEO, Harris Poll 
and Scott Weintraub, VP of Brand Growth, R&CPMK 

This piece originally appeared in Ad Age.

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Everyone is trying to figure out what to do about non-fungible tokens (NFTs). These modern tools, born out of the crypto boom, have been viewed as both a passing fad and a future tool for artistic compensation.

Recent research from The Harris Poll and R&CPMK found that about half of consumers familiar with NFTs (47%) are interested in brands offering them as a commercial product, providing new use cases for brand marketers to capitalize on the hyper-relevant digital tokens that occupy so much consumer mindshare. When leveraged correctly, NFTs offer several applications for driving increased revenue and awareness around brand products:

1. NFTs as an incentive for a larger purchase. 

 

Big-ticket items such as festival tickets, cars or trips can make most consumers hit pause and consider purchases. Unlike impulse buys – such as food, beverage or CPG products – these larger ticket items often require repeated exposures to creative campaigns or an extra incentive to push consumers over the line on a purchase.

Our research indicates that NFTs could offer marketers another tool for pushing customers through the funnel, with 30% of Americans stating they would like to receive an NFT as a gift with a purchase.

Indeed, the possibility of attaching an NFT to a purchase teases several value creation possibilities for brand marketers. For live events or travel, an expiring NFT offer could provide a sense of urgency to the purchase as an added incentive to buy now. NFTs could also offer a a seal of authenticity. For example, luxury brands such as Gucci are experimenting with NFTs tied to the purchase of their products. The NFT in this case serves as a luxury indicator, marking the occasion of the purchase and proving the authenticity of the brand to others or third-party buyers.

Whether driving immediacy for an upcoming purchase or as an addendum to prove the authenticity of a luxury item, incentive-based NFTs provide marketers innovative ways to leverage this new technology. By tying a unique token to a physical product or experience, it marks that purchase as special. And the specialized, unique value of NFTs can boost sales, create differentiation and ultimately increase the perceived consumer value of a product.

2. NFTs as commemorative memorabilia to deepen consumer connections

Much like apparel, figurines or trinkets, an NFT represents a myriad of options for marketers looking to create unique, commemorative items for specific events. Instead of tying an NFT to a purchase, marketers can use NFTs as a subsequent item to deepen consumer connection within a marketable moment in time as a token of appreciation.

In fact, 38% of consumers aware of NFTs in our survey stated that they prefer an NFT over physical memorabilia to commemorate their time at a sports or entertainment event. Memorable entertainment and sports events, which rank especially high on consumer passion indexes, have a unique opportunity to sell or give away NFTs to commemorate the occasion.

Sports leagues, teams and venues could distribute NFTs based on notable moments that took place during a game, such as a home run, game-winning goal or even a championship. Music venues could also craft NFTs representing the location, year and artist performing. Similarly, art festivals or exclusive cultural events could offer NFTs celebrating attendance.

Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino noted that NFTs are a major future-looking strategy for the company’s concerts and events, stating, “We envision Live Nation participating within the [NFT] marketplace by looking at some of our concert moments as magic moments that we could mint and attach to our ongoing ticketed festivals.”

Several sports teams, including Mark Cuban’s Dallas Mavericks, are also experimenting with NFTs to layer onto ticket sales. With so many moments to commemorate during an immersive live fan experience, NFTs present marketers with new ways of deepening consumer relationships by leveraging digital tokens that can capture those same moments and make them endlessly accessible to fans. In a not-too-distant future, fans may hear, “Thank you for coming, here’s an NFT.”

3. NFTs as additional revenue streams

As opposed to offering an NFT as strictly a purchase incentive or as memorabilia, they are also sellable products themselves—providing brands new ways of generating additional revenue beyond the initial purchase price. The tokens can represent almost anything, allowing brands to apply them liberally across different products.

Of consumers familiar with NFTs, 41% say they are likely to buy one, according to our research. And these potential buyers are most interested in purchasing the following types of NFTs:

34% would consider buying an NFT of a video game asset (e.g., characters, special armor)

33% would consider buying an NFT of artwork

30% would buy an NFT of a social media post

30% would buy an NFT of a video (e.g., event recording, interviews, blooper reels, etc.)

One of the most compelling applications is tying ancillary benefits to the purchase of an NFT. For example, the band Kings of Leon offered fans an NFT in exchange for a digital download and vinyl copy of its newest album, “When You See Yourself.” Taking the practice one step further, a higher value NFT gave the buyer lifetime front-row seats to Kings of Leon shows and special backstage passes. These benefits created new subproducts for the band, independent of album or ticket sales, that generated more than $2 million.

Entertainment, sports, the arts and cultural events are the industry categories where consumers are most likely to buy NFTs. For those consumers considering an NFT purchase, they were most likely to buy from a streaming platform (28%), an artist (27%), a blockchain trading platform (27%), a sports organization (19%) or at an in-person/virtual event (18%). For those innovative brands willing to experiment with ancillary NFT products, digital tokens offer fantastic ways for companies to increase their bottom lines.

As digital representations of the modern world with nearly zero creation costs, non-fungible tokens provide brand marketers limitless upside potential. They provide incentives for larger purchases by creating immediacy, additional value and marks of authenticity. And they can serve as unique memorabilia to deepen consumers’ connection to memorable moments, concerts or sporting events. Lastly, NFTs offer brands innovative ways to package digital products alongside physical ones to drive additional value. The only question that remains is, “What can you digitally dream up next?”

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By Matthew Hellon, Senior Research Executive, Northstar Research

Views expressed are the author’s own.

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Marketing Frontiers is a  series from Stagwell exploring the methods, mediums, and messes modern marketers will grapple with over the next decade as they chart transformation in the discipline. In February, Stagwell is exploring the rise of NFTs. 

NFT craze is a strong case study in three behavioral psychology concepts: Scarcity, Social Proof, and Signaling. 

Marketers who leverage these concepts to drive NFT adoption are poised for growth. 

Marketing is all about creating value above and beyond a product or services’ inherent value. How can I charge more for my bottle of water that’s basically the same as the one right next to it?  

NFTs are perfect for studying marketing. Most NFTs have no inherent physical value. Most do not ‘do’ anything in the physical world (though some do have a physical component such as restaurant reservations or social clubs). Most can be copied with a simple screenshot or screen record. Their value is predicated on someone else wanting the same NFT.  

So how do you get someone to buy something with no inherent physical value? Marketing and psychology. 

This article is going to cover some of the psychological principles behind the current explosion of NFTs and the lessons they provide for marketers.  

Scarcity

Scarcity is one of the most well-known economic and psychological principles. As supply decreases, demand increases. Humans tend to want resources that are difficult to obtain or are in short supply. 

NFTs are an interesting case of scarcity because almost all NFT scarcity is artificial. Some of the best-selling NFTs are programmatically created (such as Bored Ape Yacht Club). They’re made using a computer program that varies several factors (facial expression, facial features, clothes etc.) to create different characters. It would be simple to create more characters or more copies of the same characters. They are not constrained by raw materials, production costs or distribution.  

However, NFT producers limit their supply. In fact, their limited nature and sense of exclusivity is partly what makes them appealing despite it being entirely manufactured. NFTs have seemingly been able to avoid criticism for artificially constricting supply. This has often not been the case for brands selling physical products. Some speculated whether Nintendo’s supply problems during the launch of the Wii in 2006 were really production issues or a strategic play to drive up sales. High end fashion brands are often criticised for burning their unsold clothes to control their prevalence. Despite this, some brands, such as Supreme, have thrived by limiting stock and driving up demand. 

The current culture around NFTs seems to allow brands to artificially constrain supply without much public backlash. However, this could quickly change, especially if consumers realize they’re bidding on something where supply is being artificially constricted. 

As the world becomes even more digital, NFTs could become the ultimate signalling, luxury good. What’s better than a luxurious coat? A luxurious line of code.  

Matthew Hellon

Senior Research Executive, Northstar Research Partners

Social Proof

More fuel to the NFT fire is social proof. Humans are social creatures. We’re heavily influenced by the behaviour of others, especially role models. NFT sellers have done a good job of breaking into celebrity culture. The list of celebrities owning NFTs is extensive (Eminem, Jimmy Fallon, Steph Curry etc.). This adds to their legitimacy (and drives up prices should they ever wish to sell their NFTs). YouTuber and boxer Logan Paul and businessman Gary Vee (9.7m and 22.1 mil Instagram followers respectively) have been extremely vocal about their NFT collections.  

Those looking up to these celebrities are more likely to follow their lead and purchase NFTs for themselves. Abercrombie and Fitch used a similar strategy. They marketed to younger people. This in turn led to older people buying their products to stay ‘trendy’. NFTs that manage to get a celebrity sale will also get sales from other people looking to ride the hype train. 

Signaling

Linked to social proof is signaling. We like to display our status. It helps us to judge ourselves and our in-group vs others. What better way to show that you’re an affluent, tech savvy, early adopter than to buy a digital image or video with no inherent value?  

Many people buy NFTs and then share them on social media to show off their purchase, proof of the power of signaling.  Signaling is the primary motivation behind many luxury goods. Further, many social acts such as voting and switching to electric vehicles are being encouraged through signaling such as ‘I voted’ stickers and green number plates respectively. As the world becomes even more digital, NFTs could become the ultimate signaling, luxury good. What’s better than a luxurious coat? A luxurious line of code.  

Ultimately, people buy NFTs because they’re scarce, new, celebrities & business leaders are buying them, and they say something about the owner. Or, like cryptocurrencies, they’re bought simply to be sold later for a profit.  

The future of NFTs is hard to predict. The housing market bubble leading up to 2008 popped partly because people realized the underlying value of the asset was far lower than was being portrayed. If everyone keeps believing in the value of NFTs, they will continue to prosper. However, even if the NFT bubble bursts, it’s been a quintessential lesson in how value can be created where there is none, with scarcity, social proof and signaling. 

Matthew Hellon is a Senior Research Executive at Northstar Research Partners, a full-service global insights agency in the Stagwell network. Hellon was named Young Researcher of the Year in 2021 by the Market Research Society for his contributions at the intersection of marketing and behavioral science. Connect with Matthew on LinkedIn.

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